Swimming into self-care

Rosanna Machado | November 4, 2020

Today I had my last beautiful swim at the reservoir before lockdown. I never fail to feel happier, healthier and calmer when I have been for a swim, but it’s not always been that way.

I spent my childhood being rubbish at sport and that made me reluctant to participate through fear and embarrassment. I took up swimming in my 30s to do some form of exercise and I picked swimming as it is solitary, so I wouldn’t need to compete against anyone. At the time, I still couldn’t put my head under water but overcame that fear and became a regular pool swimmer by 2012 enjoying the benefits for my mental health as well as my physical health.

Fast forward 8 years and swimming has become so much more for me. The enforced time away from technology, the immersion and meditation time, how it enables me to get in flow and feel such an energised focus. I love how it challenges me to push myself, despite my fears as I know I will feel better afterwards.

The very reason I took up swimming to be solitary has come full circle. I still love the solitary immersion, but it’s now combined with a hugely supportive and non-judgemental community. I have become more open about my fears in open water and the ability to be more vulnerable has led to stronger friendships and some amazing swimming adventures together.

And through all of this, I have realised that I do have the ability to rewrite my story and to own my own story. I no longer worry so much about what others think and instead embrace everything that it gives me and challenge myself rather than comparing myself to others.

As I studied for my coaching diploma this year, open water swimming was the inspiration for my model. When I coach at my best, I liken it to when I am swimming, when I am in flow and I have that energised focus and it feels effortless.

Approaching the next four weeks without my beloved swimming is tough, but I can reflect on what I get from swimming and look at how I can build those elements into my daily life – connecting with my community old and new, finding time to be offline and outside, looking for opportunities to get in flow, continuing to challenge myself and push myself into my discomfort zone, choosing to do things for myself and dispensing with the comparison to others. It will be challenging for all of us in different ways and with our usual routines adrift, let’s look after ourselves and embrace what we need for our own wellbeing.